PARIS — Uniformed men greeted guests at the Dries Van Noten show on Wednesday to offer disposable face masks — if anyone so desired — and big tubs of hand sanitizer (ditto). The coronavirus has its own accessories. Some attendees took advantage, even though everyone had just come from Kenzo, a show held in a sealed plastic tube. It was hard not to think that the protective measures were too little, too late. We've all been breathing the same stale air for awhile now. Been in the same enclosed buses and cars and ornate rooms.
But no one in fashion knows quite what to do at the moment (maybe no one out of fashion does either). The LVMH Prize cocktail party — the glitzy unveiling of the 20 semifinalists for the most lucrative award for young designers in the industry — was canceled, though none of the shows by LVMH fashion brands were. The Net-a-Porter karaoke evening was also off, but not the gala reopening of the fashion galleries at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, along with its new exhibition: " Harper's Bazaar. First in Fashion ." There's no logic to the choices.
Some people still do the traditional two-cheek kiss hello; some give new meaning to the concept "air kiss," waving their heads vaguely in each other's direction, but not coming close to touching; some elbow rub. Some wave from afar. Some joke about it; some frown and don't want to discuss it.
Sitting beside the runway, waiting for the shows to start, the whispers pass down the line: "These editors have been told not to come back into their office for two weeks" or "those editors drove from Milan instead of flying." Rumor had it Miu Miu, scheduled for next Tuesday, wasn't happening (the company couldn't get the team out of Italy). No — wait: It was still on. Maybe?
In the news reports, the numerical predictions for how hard the illness and its effects will hit the industry's bottom lines — the ones that have gone up and up since the turn of the millennium — also rise.
It makes for an eerie sense of suspension, a jittery feeling that something is coming, but no one knows what. There's a lot of suppressed tension, and nerviness. In the meantime, fashion moves determinedly on. It's either a sign of optimism or obliviousness; it's unclear yet which. Anyway, people still have to get dressed. Give them something to wear! (But do it with sensitivity.)
Mr. Van Noten did, beautifully. In a show that parsed the story of glamour after dark, he found harmony in opposition, made clashing prints into kissing cousins. Grungy plaids met Hawaiian-print shower curtains met gold- and silver-strewn brocade. Leather coats came over moire pants came over printed python boots; ruby feathers and chunky knits came under tweed. Giant beaded irises bloomed around the neck, Klimtian jewel tones gleamed in silk, jacquard and velvet.
Everything was enveloping and more-ish, with a decadent undercurrent that seemed weirdly appropriate. Why hold back? At the rate things are changing, it could all be a lot worse tomorrow.
In the meantime, Natacha Ramsay-Levi has fully found her voice at Chloé , one situated somewhere in the nexus of Georgia O'Keeffe's desert, Britain's World War II land girls, and Rita Ackermann's lush line drawings of women; one that no longer errs either on the side of too boringly office-centric or too boho-beach-bingo, but walks its own, very fine, line. See Sherlock Holmes houndstooth shirtdresses with contrast collars in shearling or crisp cotton broderie anglaise; tough leather belts dotted with lapel pins; loose 1970s leather trousers and aviator jackets; paisley and argyle, knit stripes and swirling silks in sand dune shades from sunlit to shadowed.
And John Galliano has even introduced a new word to Maison Margiela — "recicla" (pronounced retch -ick-LA, according to his post-show podcast ) — which is actually the Italian word for recycle but that at Margiela refers to a technique for upcycling and recycling garments: Mr. Galliano sending his team to charity shops and markets to discover old pieces that they can restore and rework, creating new life out of old.
The pieces will have a special label inside, complete with place and period of origin. "Restorative!" Mr. Galliano trilled on the audio. And it was, kind of.
Using many of the same techniques he used in his couture, he played with what he called "the dress codes of our shared societal conscience," the materials of the classic gentlemen's wardrobe (tweed, flannel, felt) and the lady of the manor (silk, bouclé, velvet). The result was unexpectedly lovely to look at; fully resolved, with a haute hand and absent the freneticism that has characterized many of Mr. Galliano's past mash-ups.
A single oversize draped sleeve in tweed or flannel would be tied on with a bow atop a two-tone lilac- and rust-colored silk slip-dress caught beneath a scrim of tulle — which also crushed ruffled shirts into submission. Velvet bias-cut slithers were punched with holes to create the illusion of hundreds of sequins that flickered over the body as it moved. Suit jacket pattern pieces with visible stitching snuggled up to their better (fully made, in different fabrics) halves over bow-tied knickerbockers. Ties were caught at the neck by 3D-printed vegetable pendants: asparagus, hot peppers.
Looking closely, it was hard not to giggle in appreciation. Whether you had a mask on, or not.
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